New boss for Lady Lions

Jay Shankles, left, succeeded Jon Peppers, right, as Crossville’s varsity girls basketball coach. Peppers is the school’s new principal. Also pictured is former Lady Lion Ashley May, a volunteer assistant coach.

CROSSVILLE — Two years ago, Jay Shankles left the prep coaching ranks after 17 years to accept a job as a sales consultant with LIDS Team Sports and later BSN Sports.

This spring, Shankles decided to return to coaching and teaching. The Marshall County Board of Education hired him as a PE teacher for Sloman Primary/ Douglas Elementary in May. In June, he became the boys head basketball coach at Douglas Middle.

But starting Monday, Shankles will be teaching PE at Crossville High School. He resigned his positions at Douglas and accepted a job at CHS on July 27.

This week, new CHS Principal Jon Peppers assigned Shankles the duties of varsity girls head basketball coach. He succeeds Peppers, who coached the Lady Lions from 2005-17.

“I enjoy helping kids improve,” Shankles said. “I enjoyed coaching baseball, I enjoyed coaching softball and I enjoyed coaching basketball.

“I enjoyed that six-week stretch where I worked with those kids at Douglas. I loved every minute of it. Great kids, worked hard and played hard.

“I just enjoy coaching, and I’m just super tickled to be back in the gym somewhere or on a sideline or in a dugout, wherever they need me to be.”

Shankles led the Albertville varsity girls basketball program from 2009-15. His 2012-13 squad won a program-record 21 games.

He coached the Aggies to consecutive Marshall County Tournament championships in 2013 and 2014 and to a Northeast Regional appearance in 2015. It was Albertville’s first regional bid since 1999.

A Fort Payne native, Shankles played basketball for the Wildcats under coaches Jerry Rice and Phillip Collie. He worked as an assistant coach under Ronnie Stapler at Guntersville.

“It was tough on me because this is a good group of girls that’s coming through,” Peppers said. “It was a difficult thing for me to give them up, but knowing that I was able to get Jay to come up here has kind of eased that, because I think he’s going to do an exceptional job. I felt comfortable giving him my program I started building.

“He played for Jerry Rice, and anytime you worked for Ronnie Stapler you know you’ve got a lot of good coaching skills.”

Rice served two tenures as Crossville’s varsity boys basketball coach.

“I was fortunate enough that Jay was available,” Peppers said. “I think other schools’ miss is our gain. To get him this late in the year, in the summer, was one of the better moves I’ve made.”

Shankles said he and Peppers discussed the CHS varsity girls job in the early summer.

“The Douglas guys kind of knew there was a possibility this Crossville job may come open. I didn’t go seek every opening around here,” Shankles said.

“When it came open, Coach Peppers called and said he got the principal’s job. He and I met, and it just felt like it was the right thing to do.”

Tuesday night, Shankles conducted a voluntary open gym for the Lady Lions to shoot or play intrasquad games. It’s the first time he saw them in action.

“There are no tricks in basketball,” he said. “It’s fundamentals and it’s fundamentals and it’s fundamentals. That’s what we’re going to work on, and we’re going to build from there.

“If we can get caught up in six weeks we will, but if it takes us 10, we’ll take 10. We’re not going to cut corners and try to do anything different than what I feel like we need to do to be — at the end of the year — the most fundamentally sound team, the toughest team that we can possibly be.”

Shankles is familiar with Crossville’s opponents in Class 5A, Area 14. He coached against Guntersville, Arab and Scottsboro during his tenure at Albertville.

Arab won the Northeast Regional and advanced to the AHSAA State Tournament in 2017.

“Historically good programs. Really, really good programs,” Shankles said. “Crossville is a historically good program. Coach Peppers has done an unbelievable job here.

“Being out two years, I haven’t seen any of the teams play. The kids I coached against are no longer there. Two of the three teams [Guntersville and Arab] have new coaches since I got out. It’s all new to me.

“They haven’t coached against me either, or us. It will be new to them too.

“Obviously, everybody is playing for that opening night of the area tournament, to win that first game to figure out a way to get into the postseason. We’re going to play and see what happens.

“If you can’t pass and catch and handle it toughly and make a shot, you can’t play. There are 10 gazillion plays, but if you are not fundamentally sound, then those plays aren’t very good. We’re going to work on the stuff that’s going to make us better.”

Shankles was a junior high coach and teacher at Albertville Middle School from 1998-2000.

He went to Ashville from Albertville as an assistant varsity football and baseball coach. He coached junior high girls basketball his first year and then was promoted to varsity girls coach.

Shankles was an assistant coach on Ashville’s 2003 state baseball championship team.

From 2003-09, he coached and taught at Guntersville. He spent five years as junior high boys basketball coach and head softball coach. He was the junior varsity boys basketball coach and varsity assistant in 2008-09.

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